Another year, another top four finish for Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. Yet again, they have managed to comfortably attain a Champions League place for next season without doing anything to seriously trouble the title contenders.
They finished their league campaign off with a convincing 4-1 win over Tony Pulis’ West Brom. The game didn’t have much riding on it, with the Baggies already safe from relegation and Arsenal effectively guaranteed to finish third, therefore securing the final automatic spot for next season’s Champions League.
However, the game was used as a chance for a couple of the underperforming, English fringe players to show off their talents. Jack Wilshere scored, however the real story revolved around Theo Walcott, who grabbed a 33-minute hat-trick. His goals reinforced his claim that he has what it takes to be a main striker at Arsenal, rather than play on the wing.
The hat-trick performance also reignited the argument as to whether Arsenal need further firepower up front to challenge for the Premier League crown. Alexis Sanchez has been fantastic in his first season in England, but the likes of Olivier Giroud and Danny Welbeck do not score consistently enough to rival the top marksmen in the game.
Chelsea have Diego Costa, Manchester City have Sergio Agüero and Manchester United have Wayne Rooney. When fit, Liverpool’s Daniel Sturridge is an invaluable asset, whilst the Gunners’ bitter rivals also have a brilliant striker of their own in young Harry Kane.
Pundits including Arsenal legend Thierry Henry have repeatedly insisted that a world class striker is needed to launch an assault on the Premier League trophy, a crown they last won when the Invincibles went all the way in 2004. Sure, a new goalkeeper, a defensive midfielder that can dominate the game, and arguably one or two new defenders are needed, but it cannot be denied that a striker capable of hitting twenty plus league goals a season would be a welcome addition.
As the close season begins, the rumour mill has entered overdrive with the Gunners linked with several players, including usual suspects Karim Benzema and Gonzalo Higuaín. Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette – who has had a very impressive season – is also said to be on the radar, however the name that sticks out is Porto’s Colombian international Jackson Martinez.
Martinez has caught the eye repeatedly in his three years with the Portuguese giants and has found the net 67 times in just 89 appearances. He is a man that has been linked with several of the top clubs, including Manchester United and Real Madrid, yet it seems that Arsenal are leading the way, with some tabloids even reporting that the North Londoners have activated a release clause in his contract. The release clause is said to be around £24.8million – a relative bargain for a player of his quality in today’s barmy world of football transfer fees.
He is no spring chicken at the age of 28, and would surely be hoping to move on sooner rather than later if he is to play in a more competitive league and for a club with a bigger profile.
There is no question that he would be capable of performing in England. He can finish with both feet and is an out and out goalscorer. Arguably more telling is his character. He not only provides the goals for Porto, he is their captain. To be the leader of any club, at almost any level, shows maturity and qualities that are important if you want to be successful.
Eleven years is a long time without winning the league for a club like Arsenal. It is the main criticism thrown at Wenger, as some fans suggest he is happy finishing third every season. But the players at Arsenal have said that they want to win the league. Wenger himself has admitted that falling short consistently is not acceptable. There is absolutely no guarantee that signing a striker will change things, but it would represent a signal of intent.
In recent years Wenger has begun to splash the cash on the likes of Mesut Özil and Alexis Sanchez. If he sticks to form, an established attacking talent should be on its way to the Emirates this summer.
Should that talent arrive in the shape of Martinez, then the Arsenal fans will be thrilled. There is no definitive answer as to whether he will be leaving Portugal’s Primeira Liga for England’s Premier League but he just may. If he does in fact join, he will surely be far better than the most recent high profile Colombian striker to join an English club – Radamel Falcao. Either way, Arsenal need a striker and Martinez would be as close to perfect as you can get for the Gunners.